Label of the month (#1): Hubro / Febuary 2017

6 quick Q&A with Hubro Label Manager Andreas Meland.

Based in Oslo and with a fondness for physical format Hubro is one of Norway’s largest labels for Jazz and improvised music. We are glad to have received few moments of the always-busy label manager’s time, and can hopefully shed some light on a few different aspects of the Hubro label.

1. What led to the creation of Hubro, did you see it serving a special need?

06.02 / 2017

A series of different things lead to the creation of HUBRO. I have to admit that one important factor was satisfying a need I had myself: to work more closely with the artists and being able to follow projects from A to Z. I had been working as a label manager for ECM at Grappa Musikkforlag in Oslo for many years, and I enjoyed the job tremendously. Earlier on I had been running a couple of bedroom/cottage industry labels, in my early twenties, and was now getting to a point where I was missing being able to follow the creative process behind an album again, and not only being handed a finished album and then do my best to do pr and marketing for that release. I was also seeing a need for a label that could pick up and work with a handful of artists that I new about in Norway at the time that no labels seemed to be taking proper care of. Within the Grappa umbrella we were missing a jazz label, and that was what I asked my boss if I could start when I approached him: a jazz label. You could argue that Hubro isn’t a jazz label, and I would agree to that, but there are at least quite a few jazz releases in the catalogue, and many, almost all of the artist have a background in jazz or improvised music.

2. What do you look for when you select music for Hubro and do you have any dogmas or philosophies that affect the selections you make?

When I select music I look for music that excites me, catches my attention or challenges me in a way I like. It´s that simple.
So far I have been focusing on the Norwegian scene, and Norwegian artists. That makes a lot of sense I think, but it is not a dogma, and no-one knows what the future might bring.
The only real dogma is that it´s important that I feel that I can do a proper job for the artist or release I select to work with.
Everybody needs to be realistic off course, but it is important for me not to disappoint the artist I am working with. Not that I am saying that it never has happened. HUBRO is more or less a one-man operation and with the amount of time I spend on the label I wouldn’t be able to continue loving what I do if the artist’s didn’t feel that the relationship with the label was fruitful in any way. It is a goal for me to keep loving what I do.

3. Can you try and select four albums that embodies the essence of Hubro and say a few words about the albums?

I do not know what the essence of Hubro is. I am still searching. But here are four great albums for you. I see connections between all of them, but at the same time they are very different.

1982: Chromola
1982 is Øyvind Skarbø, Sigbjørn Apeland and Nils Økland. I love the original sound this trio have and the unusual combination of instruments: Hardanger-fiddle, Harmonium and drums. I guess it is the only Hardanger-fiddle, Harmonium and drums trio in the world? The music is completely improvised, it is both challenging and catchy. They are very confident both when they are experimenting and searching in their music and when they are dealing with pure beauty in musical form. What´s not to like?

Jessica Sligter: A Sense of Growth
This is just great music. Jessica is a fantastic composer, author, producer, musician and singer.

Christian Wallumrød Ensemble: Kurzsam & Fulger
Christian´s music has been a favorite of mine since his first ECM releases. I don´t know any other music quite similar to his music. I feel honored to get to work with him.

Geir Sundstøl: Langen Ro
Geir had played on about 260 albums with other artists when he approached me and asked if I could be interested in releasing a solo album of his music. It has been collaborating with him. Needless to say he is a fantastic musician, but he has also got a special talent for finding new sounds and combinations of sound. I find his music to be very evocative, and agree with the journalists who describe his music as cinematic.

4. How do you see the future for small independent and experimental labels?

I don’t think predicting the future is my specialty, but one thing is certain: there will be independent and experimental labels forever. Real enthusiast will always adapt and find a way.

5. Can you say a few words about the forthcoming releases this spring?

1982 is releasing their 10-th anniversary album «Chromola» these days. Sigbjørn is playing pipe-organ on most of the tracks. It´s a real treat of an album I think. Later on we have Dans les arbres «electric album «Phosphorescence». Again Dans les arbres is one of my favorite bands in improvised music, and I am so proud to release their new album. Catwalk will release their third album «Ishihara» - their best and most focussed release so far. And guitar-player Stephan Meidell will also release a solo album where he is combining strong electronic pulses with acoustic music. He is joined by Magda Mayas, a harpsichord player and a baroque violinist on the album just to mention a few. Brutter will release a new album of powerful pulse-music. Phonophani has been a favorite of mine since his first release on Rune Grammofon. His new album is called «Animal Imagination» and really strong. Finally I will release a duo LP with Jo Berger Myhre & Ólafur Björn Ólafsson.

6. Previously you have from time to time commissioned special collaborations based in an existing formations like Labfields “Bucket of songs” with Mariam Wallentin and their second album “Collab” with Giuseppe Ielasi and Miriam Wallentin. Is this something we will be seeing more of in the future, the label manager stepping further into the creative/artistic areas?

I seldom initiate collaborations. Usually the artists comes to me with ideas and we discuss, and really: the artist can choose if they want to discuss a project with me before they go in the studio, or if they just want to involve me when the mixes or masters are ready. I really like being involved in recordings and being in the studio, but I realize that I am too consumed in the day-to-day work and all other aspects of running a label too be able to be a producer of more than a few albums a year.